s/s/s, Beak & Claw

Jason Randall Smith

s/s/s, Beak & Claw [Anticon]

From the moment that this four-song E.P. opens with “Museum Day,” listeners will either be intrigued or terrified. It’s one thing to find out that Sufjan Stevens joined forces with Son Lux and Serengeti for an Anticon release, but it’s quite another to hear his vocals wrapped up in Auto-Tune. Those end-of-the-world predictions from the Mayans may not seem so far-fetched after all.

Consider “Museum Day” the listener’s litmus test, with all three distinctly different artists on full throttle. When Sufjan isn’t passionately singing through a vocal processor, Serengeti’s rhymes walk a tightrope balance between the absurd and the surreal. Lux crafts beats that march through space, pierced by lasers with the intensity of lightning bolts and signified by cacophonous cymbals and pads that trip over their own excitement. From a release that’s less than 20 minutes in length, these first six minutes are probably the most challenging.

“Beyond Any Doubt” is the shining moment of Beak & Claw. Over a head-cracking beat, Geti spits big talk about the past tense (“I was bold when I was 21 in life”) while Sufjan adds the present-day vulnerability with the hook (“If I could figure out what it was all about, I’d work it out”). Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond joins the trio on “If This Is Real,” her vibrant vocals feeding into Geti’s accelerated flow that races through Lux’s production. “Octomom” closes the project with synth-drenched electro-pop and a prom night tale involving Nadya Suleman, an idea that practically writes its own video treatment. It’s certainly the most fun song of the four, but the collective efforts of this super-group are almost too much to take in spots.

Some satellites were meant to travel within their own orbits and Beak & Claw is a meeting of the minds that ends in a supernova, potentially blinding the fans of any of these artists to its future possibilities.

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